Sunday, March 25, 2007
I'm happy to report that unlike other recent London transports (Festen, Democracy), David Harrower's sharp and intensely satisfying Blackbird has lost none of its punch and power in translation. The drama is quite reminiscent of early David Mamet (due to the subject matter and style of the play, I would assume comparisons to Oleanna are in store when the reviews are published), with quick-phrased dialogue that absolutely crackles. The play will fly or fall on whether or not the two stars are able to produce the almost operatic rhythm the language requires, but Manhattan Theatre Club has assembled a completely adroit pair. Jeff Daniels triumphantly returns to the theatre, and performs an almost miracle: he manages to humanize a man most would write off as a predator and cast away, something even the highly lauded Richard Griffiths couldn't pull off. His bravura mannerisms and line readings make up for the fact that he's a bit too young for the role (those who have read the script know that his character, Ray, is supposed to be nearly sixty, while the spry Daniels doesn't look a day over 45). His sparring partner is Alison Pill, one of the most utterly fascinating young stage actresses working today, who sinks her teeth into Una, a woman who can't seem to come to terms with her arrested development. Pill plays her as a direct descendant of Lolita, and almost all of the audience was stunned by her frank and honest delivery of the play's heightened sexual language. In the hands of these two pros, Blackbird soars.